On May 14, 2013, the Secretary of Defense announced that most of the Department of Defense (DoD) employees will be furloughed for up to 11 days in order to combat the budget shortfall created by sequestration.
The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), the folks that run our DoD schools were not exempted from the upcoming furlough. The DoDEA employs approximately 16,000 people, and of those, about 5,000 are employed year round and are subject to up to 11 days of furlough. The other 11,000 or so employees work for DoDEA during the nine month long school year, they include the teachers, aides and technicians and other support staff. Those nine month employees are subject to a five day furlough.
The DoDEA expects to realize approximately $23 million in budget savings due to the furlough – the short term savings will come on the backs of the hard working employees of DoDEA.
Longer term and much more extensive savings appear to be right in front of us.
DoDEA maintains a yearly budget of approximately $1.88 billion. The money is used to educate approximately 84,000 students that attend one of the 194 DoD elementary and secondary schools that are located in 12 foreign nations, the United States and two of its territories.
According to Ms. Marilee Fitzgerald, the Director of DoDEA, about 30% of the DoDEA’s budget is spent domestically; it is monies used to educate the approximately 24,000 eligible students on military bases spread among seven U.S. states.
Utilizing those numbers, DoDEA is educating our stateside students at a cost of about $23,500 per student – more than double the cost of the average per student spend within the United States public school systems according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Fort Rucker Elementary School is located on Fort Rucker, Alabama. It was originally built in 1963, and currently houses grades two through six educating about 400 students. Fort Rucker has nine public elementary schools within a 10 mile drive of the base.
The Maxwell Air Force Base (AFB) Elementary and Middle School is located on Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama. It was originally built in 1963, and currently houses grades Pre-K through eighth educating about 400 students. The city of Montgomery, Alabama has 30+ elementary and middle schools within its school districts.
And there are many more head-scratching examples just like those of Fort Rucker and Maxwell AFB.
I am not suggesting that we immediately close each DoD school that is located in the seven states without a detailed study. I am sure there has to be an example that makes complete sense to maintain one or more of the stateside schools, but on the surface, it seems that might be a hard sell. Each and every dollar that we spend within the Department of Defense must be scrutinized — our readiness counts on it — and based on the numbers provided by DoDEA, there appears to be a potential to save a majority of the estimated $560+ million per year used to educate military dependents stationed CONUS.
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